There was a widely bruited-about statistic reported last week, stating that 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. Clearly, we don’t fall into that category, but . . . how many of our friends do? Do you have friends/family who read as much as you do? Or are you the only person you know who has a serious reading habit?
I was not surprised by the statistic. As a librarian for almost thirty years, I have seen how reading habits have changed. Where once, patrons would stagger to the circulation desk with a dozen books to check out, now they have three or four. Where once, we would have to buy a dozen copies of the latest bestseller, now we buy three or four. Perhaps, some of this trend can be attributed to the online booksellers, whose deeply-discounted prices make it more attractive to buy a best-seller than to wait for 3-4 weeks to get it from the library. More likely, people who once were casual readers have become less likely to read for any of a million reasons - I won't bore you with my cynical list of possibilities.
One of the details in the MSN article caught my attention - the notion that women are less likely than men to read biographies . I won't generalize from myself, since I'm a fiend for biographies, especially if they're about literary or intrepid women. (I'm itching to read the new biography of Gertrude Bell, for example.) I will generalize from my women friends, though - they (we) all read history, biographies, science, all manner of nonfiction, and we discuss amongst ourselves.
Another detail - or omission - from the article made me wonder whether the survey included audio books. I've seen discussions and debates on whether audio books count as "reading" - for example, check out this excellent post by Moonfrog and the comments below - and I've been rather surprised by some of the conclusions. For the record, I think that any medium that lets you absorb the author's words qualifies as reading - and I wonder who amongst the scoffers would tell, say, blind people that they aren't reading their "Books on Tape."
So, do my friends and family read as much as I do? Friends, yes, but wouldn't you expect that we'd choose friends whose passions complement our own? In fact, some friends astound me with the number of books they read, especially since they also knit amazing things, create and sustain splendid gardens, raise excellent children, work time-intensive jobs....Would that I had the energy and time-management skills to keep up with them!
(Family - not as much. Alas.)